Travelers complaining about Chicago airfares are likely to have more to grumble about in 2013. A forecast released Thursday predicts an 8 percent increase in Chicago's average ticket prices next year.
Based on recent ticket airfares from Chicago airports, that would translate into a $27.10 increase and raise the average ticket cost to $365.88.
Egencia, a corporate travel agency owned by Expedia Inc., released predictions for 19 U.S. cities, which took into account factors ranging from jet fuel price to the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
"Everyone is already upset about ticket prices," said Connie Semaitis, a travel agent at The Travel Agency Inc. in Chicago. "I'm not surprised at all. Everyone wants inexpensive tickets, but they don't understand that airlines are businesses too."
Average airfare prices are expected to rise 5 percent in North America, Egencia said. The agency pointed to stagnant demand coupled with decreased competition as reasons for the overall increases.
Chicago's average airfare ticket cost (averaging both O'Hare and Midway prices) in the first quarter of 2012 was $338.78, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Prices reflect the cost of the ticket plus any additional taxes and fees.
The good news for those flying out of Chicago is their airfares are still slightly below the U.S. domestic average of $373, which is projected to climb to $391.65 if Egencia's forecast is accurate. However, Chicago is expected to experience a greater percentage increase than the country overall.
While these increases may trouble travelers, consumers are not as bad off as they think.
"Airfare has not kept up with inflation," said Jean Medina of Airlines for America, an airline trade organization. "It actually costs less to fly today than it did 10 years ago."
From 2000-10, the Consumer Price Index rose 31 percent, Medina pointed out, while the average domestic airfare rose just 9 percent. Adjusted for inflation, today's average ticket would have cost $414 in 2000.
"Tickets are actually less expensive," Medina said, but travelers only see the numbers and don't account for inflation.
"People don't realize that there is a significant amount of tax added to ticket prices as well – over 20 percent," Medina said. Airlines have no control over the taxes that continue bump up ticket prices, she added.
Semaitis, who has been a travel agent for more than 20 years, said doesn't think the higher prices will affect her business.
"The key is to book early," she said. "And I'm sure vacationers will start taking more advantage of those special early prices."